A major French pork cooperative has announced plans to stop the castration of male piglets on its farms by March 2013.
Cooperl Arc Atlantique, which accounts for 20% of France’s total pig production, said that the decision would initially be introduced on a voluntary basis, with technical information and training for its farmer members.
The group claimed that ending castration would enable it to respond to demand from consumers to improve animal welfare, as well as improving feed efficiency by 10% and reducing the use of antibiotics.
Cooperl said that all the links in its production chain had worked together to understand the implications of ending castration, including the risk of boar taint. After carrying out detailed research on large farms, with 60,000 non-castrated males slaughtered, looking at controls across the production chain, including genetics, diet, behaviour, slaughter and preparation, the group said it was now able to guarantee that there was no risk of boar taint in its pork products.
Step forward for welfare
The announcement has been welcomed by animal welfare organisation Eurogroup for Animals, which said the decision would “positively impact the lives of an estimated 5 million pigs a year”.
“About 100 million male piglets are still castrated in the EU every year, most of the time fully conscious without pain relief or anaesthetic causing pain and suffering for several days,” said a spokesperson.
“This move is a great step forward for improved welfare of pigs and is in line with the European declaration on the Alternatives to Surgical Castration of Pigs, introduced by the European Commission to stop this cruel and painful practice in the EU by 1 January 2018, and Eurogroup encourages everyone to contact any of the stakeholders in the pig sector, raising their awareness of the Declaration and get them to sign up to it.”
The French Institute for Pig and Pork Industry has organised a training session on 11 October, with support from the European Commission to help French pork producers move towards ending castration.
Boar taint is an unpleasant odour, which occurs when pork is heated. It is understood that only a small percentage (6.7%) of sexually mature male pigs have the concentrations of the compounds skatole, androstenone and indole which result in boar taint. Additionally, research suggests that 44.3% of men and 7.6% of women are unable to detect the smell.